Furman (22-10) at East Tennessee State (22-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 15th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center (5,740) -- Johnson City, Tennessee. Television: FCS. CIT Record: Furman 0-0, ETSU 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 23-23.
GAME NOTES: It will be a historic night for East Tennessee State, as the Buccaneers will host a matchup for the first time ever in a postseason tournament when they open the doors at the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center for the Furman Paladins as part of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
These two schools are old acquaintances, as Furman and East Tennessee State had some memorable matchups in the Southern Conference. Furman has won four of the last five meetings in Johnson City, but the last matchup between the two programs went in favor of the Bucs, who defeated the Paladins, 87-84 in the 2005 Southern Conference Tournament. With that win ETSU evened the series at 23 apiece.
This might be the eighth overall postseason appearance for the Paladins, but it is the team's first since losing to West Virginia in the opening round of the 1991 NIT. This year's team racked up 22 victories on the season and finished with a respectable 12-6 ledger in Southern Conference action. The team even made a nice run in its league's tournament, defeating Samford and Chattanooga, before falling to Charleston.
As for the Buccaneers, they are also making their first appearance in the CIT tournament, but their postseason history is more storied than Furman's. East Tennessee State has advanced to the postseason 11 times, and nine of those took place in the NCAA Tournament, including showings in the past two. This season the Bucs finished an outstanding 16-4 in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and collected 22 wins overall on the year. However, ETSU's regular-season success did not translate into the league tournament, as the Bucs suffered an early exit against North Florida.
The Paladins are a victim of their own lack of success offensively. Furman did a solid job in terms of defense, limiting the opposition to just 64.0 ppg, but an inability to put forth a consistent attack at the other end of the court hurt Furman throughout the season. The Paladins, who come into this game averaging 69.0 ppg, have been led by Amu Saaka. The forward is producing team highs in points (16.0 ppg) and rebounds (6.6 rpg), but Saaka has not done it all on his own, as Jordan Miller and Noah States have also made solid contributions. Miller is posting 11.2 ppg on the season, while States is helping out with 10.7 ppg. Darryl Evans has not done much in terms of scoring, netting just 8.9 points per matchup, but his 111 assists lead the way for Furman.
East Tennessee State has dealt with similar issues this season, as the Bucs are producing just 69.0 ppg. That number was good enough to help the Bucs rack up 22 wins, but that win total can be attributed more to the team's play defensively, as ETSU is limiting the opposition to just 63.7 ppg. The majority of the team's success offensively has come from the frontcourt duo of Mike Smith and Isiah Brown. Smith is producing a team-best 17.3 ppg and is also collecting 6.9 rebounds per contest. As for Brown, he is only averaging 10.8 ppg, but the big man is leading the team with 7.3 rpg and 67 blocks, showing he can be effective at both ends of the court. Adam Sollazzo is leading the team with 137 assists, but the best guard on the floor for ETSU has been Micah Williams, who is posting 14.5 points per matchup.
The Buccaneers have played well at home this season, and even though these two programs are evenly matched, East Tennessee State should have a slight edge thanks to the backing of a home crowd.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Tennessee State 67, Furman 64
03/15 10:34:40 ET